Hightower understands pressure of another title shot

July 13, 2013

Playing basketball for the Lipan Indians, Hunter Hightower understands pressure.

That knowledge has served him well at the past two years at the National High School Finals Rodeo as he has captured back-to-back national championships in cutting.

Beginning Sunday, the Lipan senior will be going for a third straight national title when competition opens in Rock Springs, Wyo.

“Having that word Lipan across my chest does make people want to beat you,” he said. “That fires them up.”

Lipan has a history of great success in basketball with both its boys and girls teams. Before last season, the Indians had advanced to the regional tournament 11 consecutive seasons, while the Lady Indians have been to state three of the past four years.

Also, the Hightower family has a strong reputation in cutting, a sport that in itself can be very humbling.

“You can have the best round in the world one day and come back the next and do absolutely terrible,” said Hightower.

“There are three minds at work – yours, the horse’s and the cow’s. Getting all three to work together can be a very hard thing to do.

“You have to be able to read that cow, and that’s just not easy.”

Hightower is, however, very good at doing just that. He qualified for nationals by repeating as state champion at the Texas High School Rodeo Association Championship in Abilene in mid-June.

Though he knows the feeling of winning it all, Hightower said can’t go into Rock Springs too comfortable.

“You can’t let that get in your way,” he said. “You have to go up there, focus, and realize this is a whole new competition and what you did before means nothing in this event.

“The experience does help and it doesn’t. Being defending champ makes it tougher. You’ve got the experience, but you’re also the one everybody is gunning for.”

Following the competition in Rock Springs, Hightower will return to the area to compete in the World Cutting Finals in Fort Worth July 22-24. He won the Junior Division in 2009 and is competing in the Senior Division this year.

He is also in the competition for a scholarship. He previously won one of over $1,200 with his 2009 championship.

As busy as he stays competing, Hightower said none of it ever grows old.

“It hasn’t yet, and I hope it doesn’t,” he said. “I absolutely love it. I’m going to go have fun, see some people I haven’t seen in awhile – and hopefully win.”

As for competing in cutting for a living, Hightower said he is still undecided. He plans to attend Texas A&M and study law.

“I’m thinking about it, but it’s not first and foremost on my mind,” he said of a cutting career. “Education is first, then we’ll see.

“Right now I just want to go up there (Rock Springs) and do my best.”

In addition to his success in rodeo and basketball, Hightower was on the Lipan baseball team this past season and helped the Indians to their best campaign in school history. They finished 10-7, setting a school record for victories, and posted their first postseason victory despite losing two games to one in a best-of-three series to Chico in bidistrict.

HALLIDAY COMPETES IN

FFA STATE RODEO

Lipan’s Tallen Halliday competed in goat tying at the Texas Future Farmers of America Rodeo in Alvarado earlier this week.

Her time in the first go was 9.2 seconds, but she was given a no time after her goat failed to stay tied for the required six seconds. In the second round, she returned to gather an 11.87 time, but it wasn’t enough to advance her to the short round.

The rodeo is part of the annual Texas State FFA Convention in Dallas.

Halliday, a sophomore, is also a member of the Lipan Lady Indians basketball team that was ranked as high as No. 1 in the state last season and reached the third round of the Class A playoffs. They finished 29-5.

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